Chairman Murr: Here's Why Ken Paxton Had to be Impeached

Our committee uncovered Bribery, Conspiracy, Abuse of Office, Misappropriation of Public Resources, Obstruction of Justice, and more

By State Rep. Andrew S. Murr

We are embarking on something nearly unheard of in the Texas House of Representatives: For just the third time in the storied history of our state under our current constitution, the House has impeached a state officer.

When the House cast an overwhelming vote to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, we fully understood the gravity of our actions. In fact, I cast my vote with profound certainty that Paxton must be held accountable for his flagrant abuses of his office and of the public trust.

Earlier this year, Paxton attempted to settle a whistleblower lawsuit with four former senior aides whom he fired after they raised alarms about his actions. These aides, and others who resigned before Paxton could fire them, are highly esteemed and respected conservatives whom Paxton personally recruited to run divisions of his agency. Paxton (at right,) asked taxpayers – via the Legislature – to pay the $3.3 million settlement to make his problems go away. When he would not provide the Texas House with basic information about why taxpayers should cover this settlement, the House General Investigating Committee, which I chair, opened an investigation to learn what happened.

The findings were appalling. Our committee uncovered:
  • Bribery
  • Conspiracy
  • Abuse of Office
  • Misappropriation of Public Resources
  • Obstruction of Justice,
  • and more
Paxton repeatedly and obsessively invented new rules and redirected public resources solely to help a friend and campaign donor, real estate developer Nate Paul, who was under FBI investigation. Paul had not only contributed $25,000 to Paxton’s campaign, but he was also helping remodel Paxton's Austin home and had quietly given a job to Paxton’s mistress.

Mr. Paxton:
  • Asked his open records division to authorize the release of criminal investigation records that DPS and the FBI both said needed to be protected.
    • Around the time Paxton had personal access to one of these documents, he directed an aide to deliver an envelope containing documents to Paul.
  • Directed the division of his agency that is supposed to protect nonprofit organizations to instead pressure a nonprofit into a lowball settlement with Paul that would have cost it millions.
  • Personally requested, fast-tracked, and dictated a legal opinion to prevent impending foreclosure sales of Paul’s properties – all in one weekend. This process would typically take up to six months and be done without intervention by the Attorney General.
Most significantly, when Paul claimed the FBI was unfairly targeting him, local prosecutors and Paxton’s own deputies all disagreed and advised against any special Office of the Attorney General investigation. Paxton went behind their backs to hire an unqualified, inexperienced outside counsel – recommended by Paul himself.  Without any lawful authority or knowledge within OAG top circles, that attorney then undertook to issue more than 30 grand jury subpoenas to banks adverse to Paul, individual law enforcement personnel investigating Paul, and even the magistrate overseeing litigation involving Paul.
Our committee shared these harrowing findings of corruption with the full Texas House, leading to an overwhelming vote of impeachment. We could not, in good conscience and in accordance with our principles and oath of office, ignore this shocking pattern of abuse and criminality.

The impeachment vote came near the end of a long legislative session, but the conservative expert attorneys hired by our committee to investigate this matter had spent several months delving into Paxton’s corruption – all after he refused to make the case for the $3.3 million taxpayer bailout he sought to sweep away his misdeeds.

Some have questioned why Republican House members would bring articles of impeachment against a member of our party who has won numerous statewide elections and whose troubling behaviors have been the subject of news coverage through the years. But electoral victory is not a license to abuse the public’s trust, and the General Investigating Committee does not make decisions based on what has and has not been in the news media.

We had a reason to ask questions, we asked them, and the evidence we found was conclusive.

Further, as Republicans, we cannot credibly call out corruption in the other party if we ignore it in our own. Paxton has taken on some important issues during his tenure, but I am certain that there are others in our state who could aggressively defend conservative values as attorney general while honoring the sacred trust with Texans that Paxton has chosen to break.

Integrity matters to Texans and should always matter to conservative Republicans. 

Soon, Paxton will have a full opportunity to defend himself and his actions in a Senate trial. I urge all Texans to listen to that trial, look at the evidence, and make up your own mind.

I believe the facts – examined aside from politics and partisanship – point to one overwhelming conclusion.

State Rep. Andrew S. Murr is a Republican who represents District 53 in the Texas House of Representatives. He is Chairman of the Texas House General Investigating Committee.